The Best Picnic Spots In LA
photo credit: Andrea D'Agosto
Many activities claim to be the “Official Sport” of Los Angeles - searching for parking after 5pm, horrifically bad improv, whatever that thing is where you tie rope to a tree and try to walk on it. But with the city’s year-round warm weather, abundance of public parks, and infinite number of inhabitants who, like, look really good in gingham - the answer is clear. LA is a picnic town. So, from breathtaking views of the San Gabriel Mountains to a secluded path in Griffith Park, we now present to you: The Best Picnic Spots In LA, and where to pick up food nearby.
The Picnic Spots
Despite starring in movies such as Training Day and Drag Me To Hell, this tiny park on the edge of Echo Park and Chinatown remains relatively unknown. Quiet, uncrowded, and with unobstructed views of the Downtown LA skyline, by day, it’s the perfect place to bring a blanket and pretend to read something (most likely by Haruki Murakami), and at night, you’ll have a truly breathtaking view of the city’s skyscrapers. It’ll make you feel like you’re in a scene from Perks of Being a Wallflower, or compel you to yell something like “This is my city” from the top of your lungs.
If you’ve ever fantasized about leaving this world for the grassy meadow depicted on the Hidden Valley ranch bottle, may we suggest planning a picnic at Will Rogers State Historic Park? The grassy oasis in question is the former estate of Will Rogers himself. It lies in the Santa Monica Mountains in the Pacific Palisades area, and you’ll find hiking trails, polo fields, and dogs, lots of dogs. In addition to plopping on the grass and pretending you are a crudite stick, it’s nice to hike the 2.1 Inspiration loop, or point and stare at a horse and say “horse!” Grab a panini or salad at Edo Bites or an under-$10 burger or high-stacked sandwich from Palisades Garden Cafe.
Pan Pacific Park is a perfect place to suggest when your friend group is coming from all corners of the city and you know they’ll only show up if you agree on a central location. The surprisingly large space has multiple grills, various playgrounds, and several covered picnic areas. As for food options, Potato Chips Deli is across the street and makes large deli-style sandwiches, the salads and tartine’s from Sycamore Kitchen never disappoint, and Kimukatsu on Beverly makes excellent pork katsu cutlets, sandos, and Japanese curry.
Between the grassy picnic areas, basketball courts, fitness centers, playgrounds, softball fields, barbecue pits, gazebos, and an amphitheater that should not, under any circumstances, be used for a riff off – the question isn’t, “What is there to do at Ladera Park?,” it’s “Am I developing romantic feelings towards a public recreation center?” Probably. With its 16 sprawling acres and family-friendly atmosphere, this massive Park-Windsor Hills park is an ideal place to grab lunch with a friend, go for a long walk, or finally introduce your coworkers to the Ticket To Ride board game. Stop by Little Kingston Jamaican for some excellent jerk chicken, Simply Wholesome, if you’re in the mood for health food, or Hotville Chicken for the best fried chicken sandwich outside of Nashville.
We love Hotchkiss, because in an area dominated by tourist-filled beaches and The Promenade, this tiny two-acre green space in Santa Monica feels like a true neighborhood park. Located only a few blocks away from Main St., Hotchikiss never gets too crowded and has a smooth, sloping lawn that offers partial views of the ocean and plenty of space for a picnic with friends. The area is dominated by grab-and-go cafes but you still can’t beat the sandwiches coming from Gjusta and Bay Cities, and The Window over in Venice makes outstanding $4 griddled burgers.
This large, family-friendly park in the San Fernando Valley is probably most well-known for its massive lake, which sports a 1.3 mile perimeter jogging path, multiple playgrounds, BBQ pits, and cherry blossoms in the Spring. It’s an idyllic setting, particularly considering you’re smack in the middle of the city, and a great place for a picnic. Our favorite local pick-up options include Mizlala, a casual Mediterranan spot in Sherman Oaks with excellent artichoke hummus and Moroccan chicken, Dojo for $19 sushi boxes, and Boneyard Bistro for Santa Maria-style BBQ.
San Pedro is an ideal LA day trip because you feel like you’re getting out of the city without technically leaving it. And while you’re there, a picnic at Point Fermin Park is a must. This historic park is home to an 19th-century wooden lighthouse, Fort MacArthur, and the iconic Korean Bell Of Friendship, a gift of goodwill from South Korea in 1976. There are also grassy bluffs overlooking the ocean that are basically screaming to be picknicked on. We recommend picking up an excellent, chorizo breakfast burrito from Chori Man, as well as fresh-baked bread from Colossus beforehand.
Even long-time LA residents don’t realize just how massive Kenneth Hahn actually is. At over 300 acres, this sprawling park in between Culver City and Baldwin Hills has a fishing lake, sand volleyball courts, Japanese gardens, and over seven miles of hiking and biking trails. When it comes to picnics, you have dozens of choices, but our move is to hike up the hill to the MLK Jr. Memorial Grove. This monument and adjoining green space has the best views of Downtown, and depending on the season, you might even get some snow-capped peaks of the San Gabriel Mountains in the distance. For food, we recommend grabbing some hot chicken sandwiches from Hotville, pastries from Destroyer, or jerk chicken and festival bread from Country-Style in Inglewood.
Sometimes you want to go to the beach without actually going to the beach. Maybe you don’t like seagulls, sand between your toes, or deciding between peeing in the ocean or trudging 300 yards to the nearest public bathroom. The next best thing is Palisades Park - the grassy walkway that stretches along Ocean Ave. from the Pier, until the road ends to the north. Skinny palm trees sway in the ocean breeze overhead, sweeping ocean views never get old, bathrooms are aplenty, and food options are endless. Our top picks are sandwiches or bowls from Interstellar, handrolls from Kazunori, or burgers from HiHo.
At over 4,300 acres, Griffith Park is one of the largest urban parks in the country and home to the LA Zoo, the Griffith Observatory, the Greek Theater, tennis courts, two 18-hole golf courses, and 53 miles of hiking trails. When it comes to picnicking, your options are endless, so we’ll help you narrow it down - go to Mineral Wells. This secluded area in the Northeast corner of the park is well-shaded, has clean bathrooms, good parking, and a fraction of the crowd that you’ll find elsewhere at Griffith on the weekend. It’s also very close to Glendale, making places like Monta Factory and Zhengyalove Hatz excellent pick-up options. If you’re coming from Los Feliz, we love the sandwiches and salads at Mustard Seed.
Open only since 2017, LA State Historic Park is one of the city’s newest parks and also one of our best. With over 32 acres, this Chinatown-adjacent park boasts an orange grove, event spaces, unobstructed views of the Downtown skyline, and massive tracts of grass perfect for picnics. With the heart of Chinatown only a few blocks away, you have countless pick-up meal options, but we love Pearl River Deli for its Hainan chicken, Wax Paper’s sandwiches, the Filipino rotisserie chicken and pork belly at Lasita, and the num pang at Gamboge in Lincoln Heights.
Residing in the shadow of The Rose Bowl, Brookside Park is a 62-acre park that sits only a few minutes drive outside downtown Pasadena. There are multiple playgrounds to keep the kids happy, incredible views of the San Gabriel Mountains, and several picnic areas with BBQ pits. If you don’t feel like manning the grills all afternoon, we recommend heading to either Roma Market for their classic $5.50 capicola sandwich, Side Pie for bubbly-crusted pizza perfection, or Chaaste Family Market, a Filipino spot inside a convenience store with fantastic lumpia, turon, and adobo chicken.